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As part of JUMP’s ongoing initiative to reach out to those who have served in Japan, JUMP intern Sandra Silva interviewed Sgt. Samantha Torres, who served in Okinawa, Japan, from 2013 to 2017. Since returning to the United States, she has dedicated herself to the study of the Japanese language in the hopes of returning to Japan and maintaining the meaningful relationships she developed while stationed there.

How did you learn about JUMP?
I learned about JUMP from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Before going to Japan, how much did you know about Japan and Japanese culture?
As a teen-ager in Puerto Rico, I saw my first anime, called Sailor Moon, and began to research more about animation. I began to learn to draw anime on my own and told my father that I would like to study and live in Japan. I knew very little of Japan until I enlisted in the military. Many people who I grew up with and worked with in the military didn’t believe I could ever get stationed in Japan but this young dreamer didn’t let anyone change her mind. Therefore, as a Specialist, I did my own research and found out that I could request an overseas assignment. Once I received a response saying I could be stationed in Japan, I was ecstatic and left to the land of the Rising Sun with my family.

How often did you get to interact with and talk to Japanese people?
Every day I interacted with my Japanese friends and coworkers. I always tried to look for a way to not only talk Japanese with the local nationals but also to give them my time and serve their community as much as possible.

Did you have instances where you experienced ‘culture shock’? If so, how did you get through that?
Yes, I experienced culture shock during a visit to a Japanese hot spring onsen. I was a little hesitant to go in but since I had paid for the hotel at Naha, I didn’t want to regret not going. Most of the women there were accompanied by their female family members or friends while I was alone. What I was most nervous about was breaking any rules or practices, but when I looked around, I was relieved to read (the rules) on signs posted in English. After that, I was pretty comfortable. I was quite proud of enjoying this unique way of pampering myself.

How did you feel when you first arrived in Japan? How did you feel when you left Japan?
I was worried if we would be treated differently or that Japanese people would isolate themselves from us since we didn’t speak their language. But, when we arrived, the Japanese people would amiably greet us by saying, “Irashaimase” (welcome). Every day I learned something new and noticed my personality change due to the people I shared my time with. They spoke softly, and I learned to naturally speak softly too. The people cared for others, and I eventually treated everyone as they did. Their customs became our new way of life and I could feel the difference as I wasn’t stressed or agitated anymore. I cried when I left my friends and co-workers in Okinawa, and I miss them dearly. However, I still keep in touch with them through Facebook. After my family and I left the land of Rising Sun, we could feel the tension. It was shocking to leave Japan.

What are your future plans?
My future plans are to earn my bachelor’s degree in teaching English and join the JET program once I retire from the military. In addition, I plan to learn to speak, read, and write Japanese and take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) .

Would you like to return to Japan?
Yes, I would certainly return in the future to Japan and earn a work visa and have my youngest son revisit his birthplace in Okinawa, Japan.

What challenges have you faced in trying to stay connected to Japan/Japanese culture from the United States?
One of the challenges of staying connected to Japan is practicing Japanese, since I don’t have any Japanese native speakers around me. If you don’t use it, you lose it. However, I have continued to practice and study on my own.

Do you have an interesting story to tell about your time serving in Japan? Let us know and you could be the next member featured on JUMP Spotlight Series! Read previous editions of the JUMP Spotlight Series here.

We’re hiring: Sasakawa USA is seeking a dynamic individual to take a leading role in our mission of strengthening US-Japan relations. We’re looking for someone with an interest and background in the military, Japan, and with tabletop military exercises. Our next Associate Research Fellow/ Director for Japan-US Military Program will provide substantive programmatic and administrative support for Sasakawa USA’s tabletop military exercises and, through JUMP, build relationships and provide opportunities for service members and their families who have served in Japan to engage with each one another. The position is located in Washington D.C.  The application deadline is May 1, 2018. Please see below for position details.

Position Title: Associate Research Fellow and Director, Japan-US Military Program (JUMP)
Position Location: Washington D.C.
Reports To: Director for Programs
Professional Level: Experienced
Start Date: Date to be mutually agreed upon

Position Summary:
Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA is a 501c3 non-profit located in Washington D.C. involved in US-Japan relations, providing conferences and seminars, think tank analysis, people-to-people exchanged and coordination of high-level dialogue between the two countries through our in-house and collaborative programs.

Sasakawa USA seeks an experienced Associate Research Fellow/ Director, Japan-US Military Program (JUMP) to lead its Japan-US Military Program and provide substantive, programmatic and administrative support for its tabletop military exercises and other research programs in US-Japan relations.

As Associate Fellow, the candidate will assist in developing, coordinating and executing tabletop exercises on such topics as contingencies on the Korean peninsula requiring U.S.-Japan alliance coordination, and will assist as needed on other key Sasakawa USA programs and projects focused on US-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional and global context. 

As Director of JUMP, through social networks and events, the candidate will build relationships and provide opportunities for service members and their families who have served in Japan to engage with each one another. JUMP provides a powerful foundation for sustaining the solid alliance and relationship that exists between the United States and Japan. JUMP is a collaborative effort between Sasakawa USA, the Embassy of Japan in the United States, and the National Association of Japan-America Societies. The program was launched in April 2015.

The Associate Fellow/JUMP Director is a member of the Sasakawa USA research team headed by the Director for Programs.

Requirements:

• Military veteran (with 5+ years of service) preferred
• Strong, proven project and program management skills.
• Experience living and working in Japan (this includes PCS assignments, UDP deployments or TAD/TDY of at least 90 days).
• Experience working on a higher-level staff such as III MEF, Seventh Fleet, Fifth Air Force, USARJ, USFJ, PACOM, Service Headquarters, or similar
• Bachelor’s degree in security, foreign policy or other relevant field with a focus on Japan and/or Asia
• Strong written and oral communications skills
• Strong organizational skills
• Social Media skills
• Attention to detail and ability to multi-task
• Excellent interpersonal skills
• Demonstrated ability to work in a team
• Travel: domestic and foreign travel (plus current passport) are required (approximately 15% of time on the job)
• US Citizen

Preferred Skills:
• Demonstrated expertise in US-Japan security matters
• Proficiency in written and oral Japanese
• Experience in preparing project proposals and budget plans
• Experience in organizing events
• Experience working in a think tank, academia, foundations, or other organization with research and programming focus

Responsibilities:
JUMP:
• Successfully expand the JUMP military outreach program, in cooperation with partner organizations such as the National Association of Japan-America Societies and the Embassy of Japan, to include increased traffic and reach online (via the website, Facebook page, LinkedIn group and Twitter) and events in new locations and types of venues.
• Coordinate at least seven JUMP events annually – five outside of Washington, DC, two in Washington, D.C.
• Continually improving the quality of JUMP programs and increasing the reach of the JUMP website and social media platforms
• Supervising the JUMP assistants and overseeing the planning and execution of JUMP activities
• Drafting and overseeing JUMP’s budget plan, and ensuring timely submission of disbursement forms for all expenditures related to JUMP
•Working with the Director for Finance to coordinate and manage grant agreements
Associate Fellow:
• Develop tabletop exercises on key security issues that challenge the US-Japan Alliance
• Assist in developing TTX topics and drafting scenarios
• Develop TTX teams, roles and responsibilities for players and suggest and invite individuals qualified to play those roles
• Manage TTX development and coordination with other organizations.
• Assist in drafting and managing the production of TTX game books, post-TTX reports and events and briefings related to TTX results
• Manage logistics for large-scale TTX’s with 50 or more participants and assist in budgeting and reporting requirements
• Assist with other research programs as needed including developing projects and project proposals, meeting reporting requirements, and assisting in managing budgets
• Assist in developing, planning and implementing conferences, roundtables and other events in and outside of Washington, D.C. and assist in outreach activities
• Communicate and coordinate regularly with other staff as well as partner and support individuals and organizations in executing projects and events
• Provide information and website material to the Communications team on projects and related issues as part of Sasakawa USA’s overall media and outreach efforts
• Work with Congressional relations manager in providing opportunities for Congressional briefings and event
• Provide administrative and programmatic direction to Program Assistants and interns.

If you’re interested in this position, please send your resume, a writing sample and three references to Brian Graf at Bgraf@spfusa.org by May 1, 2017.

On July 27, 2017, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, hosted the 4th Japan-U.S. Military Statesmen Forum Reception at the Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., and mentioned JUMP as an initiative that brings together service members who have served in Japan.

“JUMP has held several events, including a send-off party for Naval Academy cadets and Marines of the Basic School headed to Japan,” said Ambassador Sasae. “We know we have succeeded when we hear service members reminiscing and saying of their time in Japan, ‘Boy, those were good days.’ Thanks to the work and support of all of you here, I believe there will be many good days ahead for the Japan-U.S. relationship.”

 The reception also featured Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr. as keynote speaker. Click here for a full video of Ambassador Sasae and Admiral Harris’ remarks.

 Many thanks to Ambassador Sasae for his support for JUMP and its work to connect service members who have served in Japan!

On the occasion of the Japan Self Defense Forces 62nd anniversary, the Japan-US Military Program (JUMP) was excited to join with the Embassy of Japan to celebrate the accomplishments both countries have achieved together over the past year. The reception, hosted for members of the U.S. defense community in industry, academia, and government, was held at the Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 27.

Distinguished guests to the program included Rear Admiral Yuki Sekiguchi, the Defense and Naval Attaché at the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C.; The Honorable Ken-Ichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan to the U.S; and Dr. Janine Davidson, Under Secretary of the Navy.

While speaking at the program, Ambassador Sasae (pictured above) introduced the JUMP Program as a still new but growing initiative that brings together those who have served in Japan. Members of the JUMP team were present to sign up new members and explain the program to hundreds of defense experts who attended the celebration. Click here to read a rough transcript of Amb. Sasae’s remarks.

Click here to learn more about JUMP and here to become a member.

This year marks the 5th anniversary of Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. Armed Forces assistance program enacted to support disaster relief in Japan following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. According to the Embassy, the quick and steadfast support of the U.S. Armed Forces following the disaster is something that Japanese people remain thankful for, even to this day. This gesture of friendship and support was memorialized at a permanent exhibition in the Pentagon in March 2016.

The reception also featured a prerecorded personalized video from The Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) Central Band, featuring the national anthems of Japan and the U.S. with photographs and video of the collaborative efforts of the U.S. and Japan forces. Representatives of Japan’s Defense Industries (including Fujitsu, Mitsubishi and Hitachi) also were at the event showcasing models of their latest defense equipment.

 

2022 The Japan U.S. Military Program (JUMP)

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